Friday, October 15, 2010

"Oregon Hill" - by the Cowboy Junkies, 1992.

A few years ago I asked the Cowboy Junkies if they had the original lyrics to their song "Oregon Hill" (released in 1992 on their album Black Eyed Men) and if they would be willing to donate them to VCU Libraries. As you may know, Oregon Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Richmond sitting just north of the James River and south of the Fan District. Their song invokes the sites and sounds of Oregon Hill.

I received this letter back - see below (click on images for larger views):

Wasn't that very nice of Michael Timmins? Thanks again Michael.  

Here are the handwritten lyrics:

They got their directions wrong once or twice. The prison they refer was the State Prison which stood east (not north) of Oregon Hill on Belvidere and the college they mention is VCU which is north (not east). Or maybe they did have it correct? You decide.

"Oregon Hill" by the Cowboy Junkies
from the album Black-Eyed Man (1992)
Oregon Hill

"The hoods are up on Pine Street,
rear ends lifted too
The great-grandsons of General Robert E. Lee
are making love with a little help from STP
Their women on the porches comparing alibis

Greasy eggs and bacon,
bumper stickers aimed to start a fight,
full gun racks, Confederate caps,
if you want some 'shine
well, you can always find some more,
but what I remember most is the colour of Suzy's door

And Suzy says she's up there
cutting carrots still
And Suzy says she's missing me
so I'm missing Oregon Hill

A river to the south
to wash away all sins
A college to the east of us
to learn where sin begins
A graveyard to the west of it all
which I may soon be lying in

'Cause to the north there is a prison
which I've come to call my home,
but some Monday morning no country song
will sing me home again

And Suzy says she's up there
cutting carrots still
And Suzy says she's missing me
so I'm missing Oregon Hill

Sunday morning, eight A.M.,
sirens fill the air
Sounds like someone made the river
Sounds like someone being born again
Me, I'm just lying here in Suzy's bed

Baptists celebrating with praises to the Lord,
rednecks doing it with gin
Me and Suzy, we're celebrating
the joy of sleeping in
because tomorrow I'll be home again

But Suzy says she'll wait there
cutting carrots by the window sill
And Suzy says, 'Always think of me
when you think of Oregon Hill"


So what is Oregon Hill?

Oregon Hill - This website focuses on activities and events
at the neighborhood level, and on larger events with direct impact on their community. 


Amerikan Rambler said...

That is so, so cool. And I have almost the exact same picture on my blog. Good job, VCU!

Ray said...


Matt Bardeen said...

As a VCU alumn and Fan Rat, I appreciate that you did this. Oregon Hill was always one of my favorite parts of Richmond & I love the Cowboy Junkies song.

Forrest Lee said...

Those poorly written lyrics present a negative stereotype image of white working class Oregon Hill residents -- rednecks, STP, promiscuous women, violence etc -- the whole gamut. If the Junkies wrote a similar song about Gilpin Court residents, the song would be not be receiving accolades. Furthermore, when this song was written, the vast majority of working class whites had been driven from the neighborhood which was by then mostly inhabited by artisans and VCU students. On top of it all, the song -- and its performance -- is boring.

Anonymous said...

Forrest Lee, really. With a name like that no wonder you defend the honorable community of Oregon Hill. And no, in the 90's when that song came out, the neighborhood still had confederate flags and sketchy folks on porches every time I rode by bike through to get to the river trails.

Anonymous said...

I have always loved this song. Only one thing always bothered me.

The prison (which closed a year before the song was released) was to the East ( and southeast at that) and the college was to the North.. but damn it is a great song.

Unknown said...

In the song Southern Rain...when they say "somethign brewing up the James and headed this way..." I wonder if that's a reference to the James river?